There’s no question that in his comic persona Don Rickles spent his career pushing back against pretty much everything, so why should death be an exception? The veteran comedian passed away at the age of 90 in 2017 without recording his dialogue for Toy Story 4, even though he’d signed the contract to do so three years earlier. Hey, Pixar, it’s kind of your fault, isn’t it? What took you so long?
Seriously, though, the filmmakers desperately wanted to include the Mr. Potato Head character that Don had immortalized, and they were equally determined not to recast the part, a point made by director Josh Cooley in a recent interview. While speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Josh noted, “Of course we loved Don, obviously, and after he passed, his family contacted us and asked if there was any way that we could create a performance using the recordings we had. We went through, jeez, 25 years of everything we didn’t use for Toy Story 1, 2, 3, the theme parks, the ice capades, the video games — everything that he’s recorded for Mr. Potato Head. And we were able to do that. And so I’m very honored that they asked us to do that, and I’m very honored that he’s in the film. Nobody can replace him.”
To get a sense of Don’s humor about the whole Toy Story thing, in the production notes for the third film he proclaimed, “I gotta be honest, I’m a riot in this film, and the things I say are brilliant. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen are time killers. I have to admit, I’m brilliant. It scares me the greatness that I have. In fact, when I think about it, I’m too great for the film. It should just be about Mr. Potato Head.”
Oh, man, you guys could’ve done a spin-off with Mr. Potato Head. Too late now, you hockey pucks!